Fall is right around the corner, but that doesn’t make it too early to get your horse property ready for the upcoming winter. Every horse owner comes across some sort of hassle during the winter, which makes now an important time to prepare. Don’t let the relaxing seasons delay any repairs you might need for the chilly weather closing in around Ocala, FL.
Check the Pastures
If you’re fortunate enough to have pastures, now is the time to make some adjustments in grazing. Simply put, close grazing now can mean a slow start for growth during the spring. A decent amount of leaf growth needs to be there for winter protection. In fact, it is recommended that there be at least four-inches of growth remaining as the winter months approach. The colder months are injurious to pastures in a couple of ways. First, the pasture plants are dormant and they are simply unable to regrow. Second, soils are often saturated in the winter months and therefore more easily compacted.
A good alternative is the creation of a sacrifice area or paddock area. Horses can be kept in the paddock during the winter and also during mid-summer when pastures might become overgrazed.
How is Your Lighting?
“Feeding by flashlight” is a ticket to potential problems. For example, when feeding at night inadequate light could lead to inadvertently feeding your horses green and therefore possibly moldy hay. Also, with inadequate lighting might result in inefficient manure pick-up. Better lighting can lead to better and quicker manure pick-up.
Deal with Surface Water Runoff Problems Now
Think about last winter. Did water properly flow into culverts, ditches, grassy swales, and water diversion bars, or did it end up in various unwanted places? The presence of mud and the frequency of muddy conditions can be reduced by analyzing the nature of water runoff from adjacent hillsides, parking areas, and driveways.
Improve Gutters and Downspouts
Related to the above — now is the time to make sure that rainwater is diverted away from the paddocks to areas where it will avoid becoming contaminated. Rainwater can be creatively diverted to dry wells, rain barrels, watering tanks, or even to an unused portion of your pasture. Ultimately, you can reduce the amount of mud that your horses have to spend time standing in. Simultaneously, you can improve the ease with which you complete your daily chores.
Get Your Winter Supply of Hay Ready
Modern nutritional recommendations suggest that a horse should receive about 2% of its body weight in hay or forage every day. A 1000-lb horse that is exercising moderately will eat about 20 pounds of hay per day or about 600 pounds of hay per month. Calculate a few additional pounds of hay for very cold nights.
Actually weighing hay as it’s fed can be ideal compared to simply visually estimating the amounts. That approach is not as accurate. You can waste feed and therefore money. Once you calculate the tonnage of hay that is needed, look for green, fresh hay that does not have mold, dust, weeds or discoloration.
Consider Bedding Options for the Wet Months Ahead
Pelleted beddings are a highly absorbent, cost-effective approach. The pellets come in bags. Such pelleted bedding not only composts well, but it is also are extremely low in dust — which is helpful if you have a horse with respiratory problems.
Bring in Quality Footing Material
Plan ahead now to provide enhanced footing in the winter months. Consider the use of gravel, coarse, washed sand, or chipped wood to enhance footing in paddocks, sacrifice areas, walkways, and in the front of gates. Purchase materials in the fall for potentially better prices. Pre-winter deliveries allow trucks to more easily enter and depart from your property prior to the wet, muddy winter months.
Getting Your Horse Property Ready for Winter
Hopefully, these tips will enhance the operation of your horse farm and leave you with more time to truly enjoy your horses. If you’d like more information about maintaining your horse property or are in need for a new far, contact us or start searching our available listings: